As a boy, close to home I didn’t have any family members in the motor trade, well save for my birth mother and foster father, both of whom worked at Fort Dunlop, but I didn’t then see the beauty inherent in rubber items.
However, up in Linlithgow, Scotland, my foster mother’s nephew, John Wardrop, part-owned a garage and workshop (Regent Motors) and I’m sure that I’ve rattled on about the place in my musings before now. From 1973 onwards, whenever we visited Scotland, we were invited to stay with John and his wife, Margaret, at their spacious bungalow in the village of Faucheldean, a few miles from the bridges over the Firth of Forth and right next to the famous Faucheldean ‘bings’.
What is a ‘bing’, do I hear you ask?
Well, a bing is a substantial hill, but rather than being of natural occurrence, it has been made by the activities of humankind, in this case mining spoil, conveyed and tipped over numerous decades until a permanent lump is made.
At Faucheldean two main bings were created, with dirt roadways threading throughout, up and around, at least as I remember. The spoil tipping finished in around 1926 and so the bings settled and grew vegetation.
These artificial hills were used by John and Margaret to walk their two beautiful springer spaniels, Maggie and Shona and during my first holiday with them, I fell deeply in love with the hyperactive Maggie. I well remember, when at the top of one of the bings on a walk with the dogs, picking up a stone and launching it out. As I did so, a cry of “Noooooo” shrieked out from Margaret, as Maggie the spaniel leaped out into the either and cascaded down the shale sides into the vegetation deep below.
I was devastated, as the leap looked like it would have done for any living thing. Calling Maggie brought no response and so we quickly descended to see if we could find the horribly injured, over enthusiastic sports dog.
We found no trace and so, quite some time later, trudged back towards the bungalow, both of us tearful at the loss, until, from behind came the thundering of paws and a bedraggled, dirty Maggie leapt around us, with the stone I had thrown in her mouth. That’s what I call a fantastically trained animal.
The bings later became the scene for my end of the 1970s. John had procured for me and my cousins Lindsay and Glen, an MoT failure, taupe with white roof, 1968 Austin A60 estate with an ‘F’ suffixed registration, something like RS? 889F. It was in this car more than any other, that I learned how to control a vehicle over indifferent surfaces, the three of us often joined by neighbouring chum, Graham.
We spent any money we had on petrol and oil for it and drove it to death, with the occasional frightening slide down the steeply graded banks of the bings, but we survived intact, which is more than might have been said for the poor old car.
What I do recall clearly of these times was the laughter we shared as we got ourselves into and out of all manner of vehicular scrapes.
Time waits for no boys, especially those on the cusp of manhood and the night of Tuesday 31st December 1979 slid into the first Wednesday of the 1980s, with us wrapped up warmly, having one last spin in the old A60 before joining the party at the bungalow, with me being sent out on first-footing duties around the village on account of my auspiciously ‘dark’ complexion and being a relative stranger.
The last 373 days of the 1970s had seen the death of my foster father and of one of my closest friends the first to tobacco, the latter on his recently restored motorcycle.
This laughter at the very end of the decade pointed to the future and happier times, albeit carrying heavy, bittersweet memories, which I hold close to this day. We will always be those boys.
- Fuzz t